Art is anywhere. It is everywhere around us. A painting in a living room, a casual scrolling on Instagram, a visit to a gallery, a walk in the streets, or just a holiday to another country. It is always evident and influences us daily. I believe that everyone has attended an exhibition and was left stunned or just confused by a particular painting or sculpture. Art nowadays can take different forms while sometimes it’s hard for us to fully “get” it. You are not alone. It usually takes ages and a lot of experience to train your eye to identify and interpret the meaning behind an artwork. Every artwork is diverse, and every artist expresses his/her work in a personal manner.
When examining a painting in a museum, there are two viewpoints. The first viewpoint is visual. It’s the identification we notice. Is this a sculpture, an object, or a classical painting? What is the medium the artist uses? The second one is the personal understanding of the artwork. This part is a bit more complicated. What does that object represent? Why did the artist create this work of art? What’s the theme and what can be understood? There are numerous perceptions and factors that we can add to the meaning of an artwork. Think of a professional viewpoint now. Creators, when producing a work of art, usually have a particular topic/meaning on their minds. When the specialist produces an artwork, the artwork can have numerous various meanings. The interpretations from the spectators are also something that the artists may take sincerely. I believe they are equally important while their critique can contribute significantly to the overall meaning of an artwork. As time passes by and we familiarise ourselves with the interpretation of a work, many viewpoints may arise. The views of an artist and an observer contribute to the overall understanding of art. Sometimes their interpretation is different. A viewer may have a unique comprehension regarding an artwork.
How can we start perceiving the artworks as individuals? Our attributes and understandings of art change over time. There are also several issues that we can do when entering a gallery show. First of all, every time we check an artwork it is important to familiarise ourselves with the name and the work of the artist. Sometimes artists have a specific topic or theme that they analyse in a series of works. Artists have their styles. It could be abstract, expressionistic, minimal, pop art, impressionistic, art nouveau, modern or realistic. Terminology is also something to be aware of as the styles can make us create deeper connections with the artworks.
Many artists have tried to take inspiration from artists of previous centuries to construct their own identity. If we familiarise ourselves, we may also start noticing specific patterns that are evident in different artworks, of known artists, eras, or even styles. Another element when examining works of art are the palette. What colours did the artists use? Were colours that could be observed maybe in a painting of Roy Lichtenstein? Were they dark and reminded you of a painting of 16th century Rothko?
Personal experience is something that you need to focus on too. What does this artwork create for you? Does it remind you of something personal or does your mind create an association with something familiar? These are all part of the overall process of decoding the artwork.
Lastly and very importantly, recognise the art technique. What is the technique the artist is using? Artistic styles, movements, brush strokes, or basic concepts like the distinction between abstract and realistic painting. What are the elements that distinguish these two?
While an analysis of an artwork can be challenging, I feel that what makes it fascinating is the different comprehensions everyone may have. Our background, education, relationship with art, personal experiences can also contribute to the overall decoding process.